Perception of Body
With the modern life-style, an average educated person working almost entirely with his brain, is scarcely aware of his own body. He is, no doubt, quite familiar with the stresses he is forced to face, and the resulting fatigue as well as the mental tension. But his knowledge about its process is meagre. Even when one does experience tensions, he is unable to pin-point exactly where the tension lies. Indeed he has not an inkling that his body possesses an innate protective mechanism which, when triggered, can counteract the effects of the overstress. If, therefore, one desires to improve his physical and mental health, he has to re-establish contact with his body.
It should also be remembered that the body is the abode of the soul. Our existence functions in duality. That is, the subtle spiritual self works within the gross physical body. It is the spiritual self which gives one a sense of wisdom and mastership. But it must have a physical body to function and perform in. Science also has now proved that life's processes for man lie almost wholly within himself. Thus, the body alone can be the medium of exercising the power and authority of the consciousness to control and subdue one's primal drives, animal impulses and carnal desires. And subjugation of these urges will ultimately result in the eradication of the contamination by karmic matter. The spiritual self will then achieve the state of pure uncontaminated consciousness.
The process of sarira preksa is centripetal, i.e. from outside to inside, thus reversing one's usual direction of the flow of consciousness which is from inside to outside. Commencing with the outermost layers of consciousness one has to penetrate more and more deeply. Thus the successive stages of sarira preksa would be perception and awareness of :
(a) the superficial sensation of the skin such as contact with cloth, warmth, perspiration, itching etc.,
(b) the sensation produced by the muscular movements,
(c) the sensations produced by functioning of the internal organs such as liver, heart etc., and finally,
(d) subtle vibrations produced by the electrical impulses travelling in the nervous system.
In the vast complex of our organism various complicated chemical, mechanical and electromagnetic processes are constantly going on. Our sense-organs and other sensory outposts send thousands of separate sensation signals coded messages to the brain every moment. They are a variety of intensities of pleasure, pain, etc.
Process of sarira preksa aims at the development of totally impartial perception of pleasure and pain. This is practically achievable because there is a remarkable distinction between sensation and perception. While the sensation signals are the unprocessed inputs of awareness, perception is the finished product processed by the brain in the light of mood, expectations and many other variations. In the case of pain, for example, same sensation-signals (say, from a toothache) affect each person differently. His suffering is his perception and this varies immensely from person to person. The sarira preksa changes one's perception so that the sensation signals of pain are experienced without suffering. Same is the case with the signals of the sensation of pleasure.
As stated above, the sarira preksa is a centripetal process. Now the extension of the psyche is on par with that of the body and the spiritual self is on par with the psyche. In other words, each and every one of the billions of cells which constitute the body is permeated by the spiritual self, and that is why each cell is sensitive and capable of carrying out metabolic function through biochemical and bio-electric actions. In short, a totally impartial perception of the mass of sensations within the body is direct perception of the psyche and the spiritual self.
It is obvious that sarira preksa is the only means of complete body awareness, which, as explained above, is really self awareness. On the physical level, it helps each cell to revitalize itself, it helps digestion, improves quality and circulation of blood and increases the efficiency of the nervous system and bio-electric activities. On mental level, it is a methodology for training the mind to concentrate on internal phenomena instead of wandering about externally. On the spiritual level, impartial perception of ever-changing biological functions of the body is a means of experiencing the substratum of consciousness through its modes and attributes.